More than twenty states commit to minimize HEU in civilian applications

A group of 21 states--Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Singapore, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States--made a commitment to minimize and eliminate the use of HEU in civilian applications. The text of the Joint Statement was published by the IAEA as a document INFCIRC/912. The Joint Statement is a result of the commitment made by the signatories of the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit Gift Basket on HEU minimization. Indonesia, who subscribed to the gift basket, did not sign the Joint Statement, probably because it has already removed all HEU).

Signatories of the Joint Statement "commit themselves to the following elements of a comprehensive plan aimed at minimizing -- and ultimately eliminating -- the use of HEU in civilian applications:"

  1. Refrain from use of HEU in new civilian facilities or applications;
  2. HEU reactor conversions or shut downs;
  3. HEU stocks removals, downblending or disposition;
  4. LEU alternatives for medical isotope production.

In an important step, the states that signed the joint statement made a commitment to establish a Template for a Voluntary Reporting Mechanism on Minimising and Eliminating the Use of Highly Enriched Uranium in Civilian Applications. The template includes the following information:

  1. Current inventories of civilian HEU (with the level of detail currently reported by France, Germany, and the United Kingdom as part of their INFCIRC/549 reports),
  2. Removals of HEU through repatriation or other export,
  3. Conversions or shutdowns of HEU research reactors,
  4. Efforts to downblend excess HEU inventories.

The reports will be updated annually and submitted to the IAEA by March 1. The first report, which is due on May 1, 2017, could cover historical activities.

This initiative is an important step toward greater transparency in the area of HEU minimization. It should be noted, however, that it does not cover military use of HEU (such as naval reactors). The list of signatories does not include Russia, who is the largest user of HEU in civilian applications, as well as a number of other states. One notable absence from the list is Germany that has been purchasing newly produced HEU from Russia for its research reactor.